“I will tolerate no opposition. I intend to set up a thousand-year Reich and anyone who supports me in this battle is a fellow-fighter for a unique spiritual – I would say divine – creation.”
~Adolf Hitler 1931
1789 – George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States.
The inaugural ceremony was performed on the balcony of New York City’s Federal Hall, the first U.S. capitol.
The president then went indoors to read Congress his inaugural address, a quiet speech in which he spoke of “the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
The evening celebration was opened and closed by 13 skyrockets and 13 cannons.
1803 – Representatives of the United States and France concluded negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, a massive land sale that doubled the size of the young American republic.
The United States agreed to pay $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000.
In exchange, the United States acquired the vast domain of Louisiana Territory, some 828,000 square miles of land which comprised most of the modern-day United States between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, with the exceptions of Texas, parts of New Mexico, and other pockets of land already controlled by the United States.
In October, Congress ratified the purchase, and in December 1803, France formally transferred authority over the region to the United States. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre was Thomas Jefferson’s most notable achievement as president.
1900 – Jonathan Luther “Casey” Jones was killed when his passenger train, the Cannonball Express, collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi.
The train had left from the Poplar Street Station in downtown Memphis, Tennessee on its way to Canton, Mississippi. The Cannonball Express was running at about 75 miles per hour toward Vaughan, and traveling through a 1.5-mile left-hand curve that blocked Jones’ view.
Once he rounded the bend, Jones spotted the stalled train, reversed the throttle and slammed the air brakes into emergency stop, but “Ole 382” quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn, and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track.
He had reduced his speed from about 75 miles per hour to about 35 miles per hour when he crashed. He was the only one killed in the wreck, but his quick thinking saved the lives of passengers from serious injury or death.
1939 – Lou Gehrig appeared in his 2,130th consecutive game. He went hitless against the Washington Senators.
On May 2, the next game after a day off, Gehrig – mired in a slump that saw his batting average plummet to .143 – approached Yankees’ manager Joe McCarthy before a game in Detroit and said, “I’m benching myself, Joe,” telling McCarthy that he was doing so “for the good of the team.”
The “Iron Horse” never played in a major league game again.
Two months later, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease that is still associated with his name.
He died on June 2, 1941 … at only 37 years old.
1943 – Operation Mincemeat… British submarine HMS Seraph surfaced to cast adrift a dead man dressed as a courier and carrying false invasion plans… to disguise the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily.
In April 1943, that corpse was discovered floating off the coast of Huelva, on the Spanish Atlantic. Personal documents identified him as Major William Martin of Britain’s Royal Marines, and he had a black attaché case chained to his wrist.
When Nazi intelligence learned of the downed officer’s briefcase (as well as concerted efforts made by the British to retrieve the case), they did all they could to gain access.
In addition to other personal effects and official-looking documents, they found a letter from military authorities in London to a senior British officer in Tunisia, indicating that Allied armies were preparing to cross the Mediterranean from their positions in North Africa and attack German-held Greece and Sardinia.
This intelligence coup for the Nazi spy network allowed Adolf Hitler to transfer German troops from France to Greece ahead of what was believed to be a massive enemy invasion.
The only problem? It was all a hoax.
The “drowned” man was actually a Welsh tramp whose body was obtained in a London morgue by British intelligence officers Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu.
After creating an elaborate fake identity and backstory for “William Martin”, Cholmondeley and Montagu got Charles Fraser-Smith to design a special container to preserve the body during its journey to the designated spot.
The body was transported via a Royal Navy submarine, which dropped it off the Spanish coast. Once the body was recovered, British authorities began their frantic attempts to recover the case, counting on the fact that their efforts would convince the Nazis of the documents’ validity.
As a result of the false intelligence carried by “William Martin”, the Nazis were caught off-guard when 160,000 Allied troops invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943.
In addition to saving thousands of Allied soldiers’ lives, Operation Mincemeat helped further Italian leader Benito Mussolini’s downfall and turned the tide of the war towards an Allied victory in Europe.
Bond Factoid: If all of this sounds more than a little bit like something out of a spy thriller, well, that’s because it was.
The idea for Operation Mincemeat came from Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Before he devoted his life to Agent 007, Fleming worked as an assistant to the head of British Naval Intelligence.
Q Factoid: Charles-Fraser-Smith, the man who created the special container to preserve the body, became the model for “Q” in the James Bond novels.
By the way, Fleming’s “Q” (standing for Quartermaster) was a job title rather than a name. He was the head of Q Branch (or later Q Division), the fictional research and development division of the British Secret Service.
1945 – Holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
In January 1945, facing a siege of Berlin by the Soviets, Hitler had withdrawn to his bunker. Located 55 feet under the Reich Chancellery, the shelter contained 18 rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. Though he was facing imminent defeat, Hitler continued to give orders and meet with close subordinates.
Warned by officers that the Russians were within two blocks of the Chancellery – and only a day from overtaking it – he was urged to attempt an escape to his mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden.
He and his wife, Eva Braun, instead chose suicide; Hitler shooting himself in the head with Braun biting into a cyanide capsule.
Their bodies were carried outside to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were placed in a bomb crater and doused with gasoline. The corpses were set on fire as the Red Army shelling continued.
1945 – Russian troops liberated Stalag Luft I, a German prisoner-of-war camp (for captured Allied airmen ) near Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany. The presence of the prison camp is said to have shielded the town of Barth from Allied bombing.
About 9,000 airmen – 7,588 American and 1,351 British and Canadian – were imprisoned there when it was liberated.
The prisoners has been ordered to evacuate the camp in the face of the advancing Red Army, but refused. After negotiations between the Senior U.S. Officer and the Stalag commandant, it was agreed that to avoid useless bloodshed, the guards would go, leaving the POWs behind.
1957 – Elvis Presley recorded Jailhouse Rock at Radio Recorders on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles.
When it was released in September (with its B-side Treat Me Nice), the single was a #1 hit for seven weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1957, and spent one week at the top of the Billboard Country charts and the Billboard R&B chart.
The UK Also Liked It: Jailhouse Rock was the first record to enter the UK charts at #1 and it spent three weeks there in early 1958.
1970 – President Richard Nixon announced to the nation that an “incursion” into Cambodia has been launched by United States combat forces.
Nixon had been elected president in 1968 claiming to have a “secret plan” to end the war in Southeast Asia.
The revelation that he was in fact escalating it with the illegal bombing of what had been a peaceful non-combatant nation was more than Americans could bear.
The story continues tomorrow.
1973 – President Richard Nixon announced the resignations of White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, Chief Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst.
Although Nixon claimed White House Counsel John Dean had also resigned, the reality is Dean had been fired.
1975 – Operation Frequent Wind Conclusion: By 02:15, one CH-46 and one CH-53 transport helicopter were landing at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon every 10 minutes.
President Gerald Ford ordered that no more than 19 additional lifts would be allowed to complete the evacuation.
At 04:30 with the 19-lift limit already exceeded, Major James Kean (Commanding Officer of the Marine Security Guard Battalion and Ground Support Force Commander United States Embassy Compound) was advised that President Ford had ordered that the airlift be limited to U.S. personnel.
Major Kean was then ordered to withdraw his men into the Chancery building and withdraw to the rooftop for evacuation.
Most of the Marines were inside the Chancery when the crowds outside the Embassy broke through the gates into the compound. The Marines closed and bolted the Chancery door and withdrew up the stairwells locking grill gates behind them.
The Marines on the rooftop sealed the doors and were using mace to discourage the crowd from trying to break through.
At 04:58, Graham Martin, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, boarded a CH-46 Sea Knight, and was flown to USS Blue Ridge. After an anxious wait, a final CH-46 arrived to evacuate Major Kean and the ten remaining men of the Marine Security Guards,
At 07:53, the helicopter lifted off and headed out to sea and landed on USS Okinawa at 08:30.
During the evacuation, so many South Vietnamese helicopters landed on the rescue ships that 45 Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and at least one CH-47 were pushed overboard (photo above) to make room for more helicopters to land.
While the operation itself was a success, the images of the evacuation symbolized the wastefulness and ultimate futility of American involvement in Vietnam.
Nixon’s pledge of Peace with Honor in Vietnam had become a humiliating defeat, which together with Watergate, contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.
And On The Same Day…
1975 – The North Vietnamese had completely encircled Saigon. Despite previous presidential promises to provide aid in such a scenario, the United States could offer no aid.
By this time, Richard Nixon had resigned from office and his successor, Gerald Ford, was unable to convince a hostile Congress to make good on Nixon’s earlier promises to rescue Saigon from communist takeover.
When North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace at 11:30, they met little resistance. North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin accepted the surrender from Gen. Duong Van Minh.
The Vietnam War was finally over.
1983 – Blues legend Muddy Waters died of heart failure, at the age of 70.
His classic songs include tunes written for Waters by Willie Dixon (I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man, I Just Want To Make Love to You, I’m Ready) and others written by Waters himself (Mannish Boy and Rollin’ and Tumblin’).
In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The real question regarding his lasting impact on popular music isn’t “Who did he influence?” but – as Goldmine magazine asked in 2001 – “Who didn’t he influence?”
1993 – Women’s tennis player Monica Seles was stabbed by Gunter Parche, a deranged German man during a match in Hamburg.
The assailant, a fan of German tennis star Steffi Graf, hoped injuring Seles would enable his idol to regain her Number 1 ranking.
Parche, who was described as a mentally unbalanced loner, contended he was only trying to hurt Seles, not kill her. A German court convicted him of grievous bodily harm in October 1993 and he received a two-year suspended sentence.
1997 – Ellen DeGeneres’ character on her sitcom, Ellen came out as a lesbian, making the show one of first major television shows featuring an openly gay main character.
Ellen’s coming-out on The Puppy Episode was significant not only because it was the first time a leading primetime character was gay, but because the character was also played by an openly gay actor.
2008 – Two skeletal remains found near Yekaterinburg, Russia were confirmed by Russian scientists to be the remains of two of the children of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, whose entire family was executed by the Bolsheviks.
Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne in the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Radical Bolsheviks took power and formed a provisional government, and the tsar, his wife, and their five children were imprisoned in the city of Yekaterinburg.
In the early morning hours of July 17, 1918, the entire family, along with four loyal members of their staff, was executed by a firing squad.
After a failed attempt to dispose of the remains in an abandoned mine shaft, the bodies were transported to a nearby open field.
Nine members of the group were buried in one mass grave while two of the children were buried in a separate grave.
Even with the official discovery of the large mass grave in 1991, and subsequent DNA testing to confirm the identities of the Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and three of their daughters, doubt still persisted that these remains were in fact those of the Romanov family because two bodies were missing.
In the summer of 2007, a group of amateur archeologists discovered a collection of remains from a second grave approximately 50 yards from the larger grave.
DNA testing of the two individuals recovered from the 2007 grave were compared to the DNA tests from the 1991 grave and resulted in virtually irrefutable evidence that the 2007 grave contained the two missing children of the Romanov family: the Tsarevich Alexei and Maria, one of his sisters.
2015 – Ben E. King died of natural causes at the age of 76.
He was best known as the singer and co-writer of Stand By Me — a Top 10 hit, both in 1961 when it reached #4, and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name and reached #9).
He also reached the Top 20 with Spanish Harlem, Amor and Don’t Play That Song (You Lied).
Prior to his solo success, King was one of the principal lead singers in The Drifters, notably singing the lead vocals on Save The Last Dance For Me (their only U.S. #1 hit), This Magic Moment and There Goes My Baby.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2020 RayLemire.com. / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.